Much debate has centered on intent-based networking (IBN) and whether it’s an actual technology or simply a marketing term. To intent-based networking vendors, it’s a serious technology with rampant benefits for IT staffs across the telecommunications industry.
Linda Hardesty, an SDxCentral editor, investigated the IBN term and wrote an op-ed dissecting whether it is a technology or a marketing term that’s promoted by the intent-based networking vendors, including Cisco and Apstra. The term itself means the automation of intent across physical and virtual networking devices through orchestrating policies. It’s a three-step cycle of translating intent, automating network configuration, and monitoring the intent across the network. IBN isn’t a sole technology by itself, and that’s where the confusion comes in. It involves orchestration policies to automate configuration to an already existing software-defined networking (SDN) technology in a network infrastructure.
IBN vendors have vigorously latched on to the term and publicize its benefits voraciously. IBN vendors share common viewpoints when it comes to the technology, such it is a closed-loop that automates intent, verifies intent, and monitors. The vendors also agree that the technology reduces opex. However, there are some conflicting discussions on the subject as well. Highlighted here are discussions from leading intent-based vendors.
Intent-Based Networking Vendors Debate the Term
To clear up the murkiness of the term, Cisco outlined how it views IBN as a different technology than software-defined networking (SDN). It views SDN as a “foundational building block of intent-based networking” that resolves “SDN’s shortfalls”.
Apstra labels itself as the originator of IBN. The company defends its definition of IBN by stating that the intent needs to be “one source of truth” in order for it to actually be intent-based networking along with other IBN characteristics that need to be met. If it doesn’t have that one source of truth component and doesn’t contain its outline characteristics, then it’s “intent-washing” and not actual IBN.
Veriflow’s answer to the question of IBN’s origin is “it is unclear whether a single ‘a-ha’ moment resulted in the advent of IBN. It is a trend that has arisen in recent years out of the emphasis on automation and programmability in networking (along with SDN, verification, orchestration, etc.).”
Research and analyst firm automation Gartner differentiates IBN from advanced automation, as both technologies resemble each other. “Advanced automation solutions typically do not a) translate what to how, b) mathematically validate that desired intent is being met and c) continuously ingest a broad set of real-time network state indicators. A good intent-based networking system will embed advanced automation, but you can (and many do) advanced automation without Intent.”